That's our road that borders our farm, on the left. It's a good road for walks and what you can't quite see in the middle of the road in the far distance, is Molly. She runs ahead, sniffing out interesting things to explore, running on 3 legs. She's a Jack Russell and the leg switching thing is called the Jack Russell skip, a trait that isn't desirable in show dogs. People are always telling us that Molly is limping and I laugh because I know she will use first one back leg, then the other, in this odd skip. Even going up stairs she often uses only her back left, or her back right leg part of the time. But when she's off down the road, she runs almost out of sight, then stops and looks to make sure I'm still following. If I do go as far as I want, and turn around, she'll notice quickly and turn around, also. Unless, of course, she's seen a rabbit and then nothing will deter her for the next several minutes.
Science Weekly, a publication for grade school kids. She wanted to know if I'd agree to be profiled and if I'd be willing to answer some questions. Things like my education background, how I came to have an interest in gardens, in medicinal herbs and things like that. It's meant to give kids an insight into "alternative and different" professionals. Of course I was interested in doing anything that might inspire or encourage kids in continuing their education.
But answering the questions created a dilemma, specifically because of who the readers of the publication are. "Can I be totally honest?" I asked the editor. She said I could, and asked why. I explained that I didn't have a traditional diploma, not even a degree from a college at all. "Basically I was bored by school, and hated it," I said. "I always preferred to be outdoors instead of in a classroom."
In fact, I explained, every time I got close to getting a degree at the 4 colleges I'd attended, I intentionally changed my major. Back then, I did not want a degree of any sort, I wanted an education. So I spent semesters exploring English composition and literature. I spent more semesters learning public speaking, drama, theater. I got enough industrial design, drafting, interior design, commercial design and graphic arts, to almost graduate with that. Then there was a 4 year tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force where I learned medical illustration and computer skills ar the Medical Service School.
"So where did I learn about plants?" the editor inquired. Good question, I thought. Where did I? I always knew plants, from the time I was a child. I had my first, tiny garden of my own at age 5. I got a grant when I was still a teenager to study Native American uses of plants on the Taberville Prairie near where I grew up. I took hundreds of field trips with the wildfoods author, Billy Joe Tatum, learning to process plants for their uses. I also learned from the herbalist-pharmacist, Jerry Stamps, in Eureka Springs. Basically, I explained, if introduce me to a person and I'll forget their name in seconds, but introduce me to a plant and I'll remember it vividly, many years later.
It will be interesting to see what the editor has done with the information in her article. I did stress I think it important for kids to get all of the education they can, to not give up early, to not be distracted. She asked if I had regrets about the path I've followed to get me where I am now, or if I wished I'd finished my degrees. "No, I've never regretted not having a degree. I got the education I wanted and it prepared me completely for what I've done in life." Maybe the article will take the point of view of, What not to do, look where this guy is. But I doubt it, I think she understood that what you choose in life to give purpose, satisfaction and happiness, is valid, no matter how you go about finding it.
Do I wish I had taken more plant/botany classes? Certainly, because I've had to learn some of that information on my own. But if I had, I might have spent more years than I did, building landscapes for private homes and estates, which did little to satisfy my connectivity to plants. For me, plants need to do more than look pretty next to a house. They must justify why they are there, by producing food or sustenance of some kind. My herbs do that for me, both the medicinal plants and the 300 or more native and cultivated culinary herbs I grow. Hopefully the kids reading the article will get the point that happiness should always be a part of the equation when choosing directions in life.
Oh, and the photos? She wanted some illustrations that show I have always been focused on plants, something to illustrate my passion for plants. I sent the ones you see here, which pretty well shows I started out focused on the garden from the very beginning!
Happy gardening. If you think about it, there's always room for at least one tomato plant in your yard this spring! Grow your own, they just taste better.